Tag Archives: high school

Integrity in the Face of Violence

My parents sometimes sent mixed messages when it came to fighting.  They were adamant that I not start a fight with anyone, to be sure.  However, they were – or at least my father was – just as adamant that if I were to get in a fight that I be ready to teach the attacker a lesson.  This wasn’t an official thing, but if I told my dad I got hit, I remember him asking if I made the attacker sorry.  

The whole fighting mechanism speaks to a frustration and inability to express oneself – specifically, the emotion of being upset.  I didn’t know this when starting as a teacher, but apparently growing up in today’s society automatically means that you don’t know how to express anger and frustration without beating into someone’s face.  Why is this still a thing?  It doesn’t make sense to me.  We have the words to express ourselves.  We have YouTube for comparison, gifs for emotions… why is violence still a thing?  Is there no replacement for the catharsis involved?

Or is it just… easy?  

About one in four high school students reports having been in a physical fight in the past year.

 

Social Media

Today, there are so many opportunities with social media to talk smack and say the wrong thing.  Push someone a little bit too far.  Something you post for one person can look like shade to another person.  Even the best of texts can be re-read by someone and reacted to the next day.  Worse, the immediacy of social networking means that the offense can reach scores of people and give every sleight a built-in audience.

Social media also rewards spectacle. A fight is a spectacle.  Social media has taught students to flock to spectacle instead of avoiding it.

My father had a saying. He said this: sometimes people want to bring you down to their level, and you have to treat them as you would treat dog poop; walk around it, not through it.  (My father is so poetic, I know.)

Lack of Problem-Solving Skills

It is important that we understand that some people have only been presented – either by example or directly – with a few options for solving the problems in their lives.  In fact, someone with only the most basic instincts will choose either fight or flight.  As a teacher, it is important to immediately make clear to our students that the time of fight or flight has long past – we are in an age of creativity and civilization.  Let’s build some pyramids!

Therein is the problem; peaceful solutions often require unanimous maturity, while violence does not.

If you have no idea how to talk about your feelings, or are unused to figuring out ways to talk about your feelings, then you’re way more likely to swing at someone.  Also, while it takes two to solve a problem amicably in these situations, it only takes one to fight; after all, if one person swings, there are not a lot of people that will not swing back and just take the punches.  Therein is the problem; peaceful solutions often require unanimous maturity, while violence does not.

dodge
Unless there are serious skills involved, once one person starts swinging most people are forced to swing back.

The List

Here are some options just off the top of my head for solving problems – feel free to copy this list for home use.

  1. Apologize for something. What’s that?  You’re not sorry?  Then lie.  He won’t know!
  2. Never talk again.  Be like my dad.  Walk around them.  Let the poop image guide you.  Stay in your lane.
  3. Write about it.  Catharsis!  Super important.
  4. Talk to someone you trust about it.  They can give you perspective.  Or just take your side and make you feel good without you actually doing anything.  Note: choose confidants wisely.  You want someone even-keeled.
  5. Speak plainly.  This made me feel _______.  This is why.
  6. Make new friends with someone.  Increasing your circle decreases the percentage of conflict.
  7. Listen to Linkin Park or something.  Or anyone with lots of guitars and sadness.

I remember the one time that I wanted to fight someone in high school, I remember a very clear voice ringing in my head through the red haze: “It’s not worth it.”  I’m not self-extolling, but the clarity of that voice highlights for me the problem: we need to make sure our students also have that voice.

It’s better to walk away and let them yell that you’re a coward, because all that matters is what you know about yourself.

Fighting is easy. All you have to do is make a move, and the rest is instinct and consequence, completely outside of your control.  This can feel liberating to a stressed, emotional young person.  It’s those with the strength to take control of the situation and bear the burden that will bring us toward peace.  In Chapter 9 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout beats up a boy for insulting her father.  It’s not a reaction to danger, but a response to her pride being threatened.  Her father stresses that hurting other people and becoming a person who hurts other people is too big of a change to make based on the small-minded whims of those who would insult you.  It’s better to walk away and let them yell that you’re a coward, because all that matters is what you know about yourself.  Your actions won’t match their slanderous words; they will match your true self.  You will have integrity.

A side effect also is that you’ll make them feel lame and insecure because they’ll be all noisy and blustery while you walk away like they’re no big deal.  Two for one!  

Works Cited

“Physical Fighting By Youth” Child Trends.org. 2017. Web. <https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/physical-fighting-by-youth/&gt;. 11 Dec. 2017.

Advertisements

Tech Tips: Dual Monitors

Over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself repeating some of the same advice time after time, and I thought I’d put together a sort of collection of these common pieces of wisdom to refer to in the future.  Technology can be daunting, especially because sometimes overcoming the learning curve is an obstacle that can prevent it from being as useful as it’s supposed to be.  Cut my grading time in half, you say?  Sounds great.  Oh, you mean after 3 hours of bumbling my way through your software? A lot of teachers would just stick to their own methods.  I’ve tried to be braver about this in order to cut through some of that stigma and amass a plethora of knowledge regarding tech that can actually save time and actually make life easier.  Essentially, this will be a list of tech tips that are worth the learning curve.

Using Dual Monitors

Holy toledo, I made this one first because it saves so much frustration.  Half the reason people still print things out – like emails, memos, and even lesson plans – is because it’s so darn cumbersome to switch from window to window for reference.  Sure, you could arrange your windows side by side, but then you’re cutting your monitor real estate in half, and for many teachers, that makes us endlessly frustrated as we alt-tab, ctrl-tab our way through different windows and tabs.  So we print things out and hold the paper or list or whatever as we go through our grading and planning.

Using an extra monitor can seem daunting because it just looks like too much trouble. You have to plug it in, then connect it to your computer, and then fiddle with the display settings… ugh!

Do it when you know you’re going to spend some real time on your work, not for a quick email check.  I cannot convey enough how some of the most mundane, time-wasting things that you don’t even think about are solved by having two monitors.  In most cases, you only need to use one monitor because most teachers have laptops.  Once you set the monitor as an extension, you’ll feel so good with Google Classroom on one screen, Schoolloop on the other… or your powerpoint on one screen, your reference materials on the other… or even a parent’s email on one screen with their student’s work on the other.

Now you can drag the picture from the browser over to your powerpoint instead of alt-clicking and switching tabs.  It has changed the way I grade, the way I teach, and the way I plan.  I will never go back.  If you take your laptop from place to place, and the plugging/unplugging game starts to get to you, consider getting another device as a dedicated workstation.

I have a home computer that I use as a workstation and it has two monitors.  I use it for planning and grading.  I can do most of my planning and grading in about two work sessions per week – including essays!

dual.png
Notice also that my monitors are in portrait mode – a must for teachers, especially ELA!

My school laptop is now only for school and is plugged into the projector there, which extends my desktop and also outputs that extension to a second monitor.  The result?  On the left screen, my laptop, I can put up attendance, etc.  Anything I want the kids to see, I can drag to the right screen, and look at it without turning my back on my kids to look at the projector.

picscreens.png For on-the-go purposes, I usually just grab a Chromebook from the cart rather than my plugged-in laptop.

If you have an idea for a Teacher Tech Tip, or you have a problem that you hope I can solve with technology, go ahead and leave a comment or hit up my Twitter handle @TheEnglishPhan.

The Art of the Answer

Hopefully, most adults already know the information that I’m about to share.  I know for a fact that most teenagers fresh out of high school do not.  Therefore, if you are in college, I’m about to give you a huge boost over all of your peers.  This may help you professionally, but it will DEFINITELY save your personal relationships, mostly because the fix is so subtle that most people only notice the effects and not the cause, meaning you get the credit but still maintain your mystery.

If someone you respect – perhaps even like – says something that you didn’t hear or don’t understand, you have been presented with an immediate test of maturity and adulthood.

Person: “Hey Steve! Can you poejopfwfkoepqk…”

Steve: “What?”

Steve has failed the test.  Hard.  “What?” is an innocent question that teenagers are used to asking – and that’s because teenagers don’t know anything.  A young adult will condition himself to answer differently.

“Yeah,” you might think, “but you’re a stuffy English teacher.  I don’t need to use your rules in my personal, casual life.”

You don’t know this because most people don’t know this unless they think about it, which they don’t: “What” and “Huh” as one-word questions both induce maximum rage.  Think about the last time you explained something and someone answered, “What?”

In fact, think about the last time you called someone’s name and they answered, “What?”

Have I proven my point yet?

“What” at the wrong time can derail a conversation and ruin an interaction before you can even begin to think about why it happened.  That’s because “What” or “huh” imply any of these 4 things.

  1. “Uh… what?” You’re stupid.  Your mind is too simple to comprehend what was being said.
  2. “… what?” You aren’t paying attention.  Disrespect.
  3. “What?” You don’t care.  Disrespect.
  4. “What?!” (What.) You’re spitting attitude. Disrespect.

None of these 4 things are good for your personal relationships – especially if they already know you aren’t stupid.

“Huh” is even worse than “What” because it makes you make a stupid face while you say it.

image

“Huh” is the reason your parents still think you can’t handle your business.

“Huh” is the reason you being on your phone counts as you being “on the phone all the time” instead of just the one time you were using it in front of them.

“Huh” is the reason nobody thinks you can multi-task.

Try this experiment.  The next time someone calls your name, answer with “How can I help you?”  The next time someone says something that you don’t hear, answer with “I heard something about ____ but I didn’t hear all of it.” or even “Could you repeat the last sentence you said?  I think I misheard you.”

You’ll avert so many arguments that you’re used to having.

more

This lesson needs to be taught in schools.  I told my students about this, and one of my students asked, “Why?”

I told her that she didn’t know it yet, but she actually hated people who say it.  “You won’t find this out until you move in with someone and ask them something from the kitchen while he’s in the living room.”

Parenthood will also bring this issue up really fast.  My parents weren’t having it.  “Yes, Mom!” was the answer demanded, and had I more courage I would have met this demand with goose-stepping and the obligatory salute to these fascist dictators.

We weren’t really good about saying that until we were older, but if you wanted to get on my parents’ beatdown list all you had to do was say “What?” when they called your name.  If it was for something bad, you were automatically in trouble for it regardless of the explanation, and if it was for something good, it was immediately canceled.

“HOAN!”

“What?”

“Never mind, you can eat tomorrow.”

Even armed with the explicit knowledge of exactly how our parents wanted us to answer them, we were awful at avoiding our parents’ wrath for this particular offense.

Avoid my mistakes, children.  Be better.  Right my wrongs.